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What's 'gender fluid'? Star football player, age 8, teaches small town

Until recently, few people in this small town knew what "gender fluid" was; and then a star youth football player came out.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

When Ricky Suman needed a player to fill in on his football squad of 10 and 11 year-olds, he turned to 8-year-old Adam Scott. Scott plays center, tackle, guard, anything on the inside line. Of all the 8 and 9-year-olds playing, Scott shows natural talent and a solid work ethic.

“The kid loves football,” says Suman. “My big thing with Adam is that he picked up so quickly we could put him anywhere.”

Aside from being a budding football star, there’s something else special about Scott: As a gender-fluid child, some days, Scott is Adam. Other days Scott is Abby. Gender-fluid people do not identify with one gender. On the football field or at a wrestling match, Scott is always Adam. Scott’s mom, Sara Markusic, calls her child Abby.

Sara Markusic and her child, Adam/Abby Scott. Scott is gender fluid and doesn't identify with one gender. Courtesy Sara Markusic

Scott was born female and named Abby. But at age 2, the child started identifying as a male. About 30 percent of the time, Scott is Abby, and is Adam 70 percent of the time. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert and TODAY Tastemaker, says children develop gender identity between 2 and 5; it's natural that Scott understood gender identity at 2 even if unable to explain it.

But, after getting a haircut and asking to be called Adam at football and wrestling, Markusic says Scott truly became comfortable.

“She just started allowing people to call her Adam even though she had that name picked out for two or three years,” Markusic says. After asking to be called Adam “she opened up.”

Scott lives in rural Monaca, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, with a population of less than 7,000 people. Football exists as one of the most popular past times. In fact, Adam/Abby Scott is featured on the Esquire Network’s “Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country,” a reality show chronicling youth football in Western Pennsylvania.

Markusic worried that children might bully Scott or parents might say judgmental things, but everyone seems supportive.

“This was all new to me. I had never heard the term gender fluid. I had never known of kids that young going through something like that,” says Suman.

But that didn't make Suman feel differently.

“If you want to be Adam, you can be Adam. That’s not going to change [you] in my eyes. You are still here to play football.”

And, the children didn’t flinch.

“There was really never any bullying because half those kids [Scott] would manhandle” on the football field, Suman says, adding “It doesn’t make a difference … these kids are close knit.”

One child at school taunted Scott for going into the girl’s bathroom, but the teacher talked to the child, quashing any more bullying.

“She hasn’t had any problems. I was actually shocked,” says Markusic, who refers to her child with female pronouns with Adam/Abby's blessing. “Monaca is a really tight-knit community where everybody knows everybody and I felt like even if they had a problem they wouldn’t say anything from fear of backlash of everyone who is supportive.”

Gender fluid Adam/Abby Scott's favorite color is blue. Some days they want to wear camo and face paint, while others glittery shirts feel better. Courtesy Sara Markusic

These days, classmates mostly seem in awe of Scott.

“All these kids are being nice to her and they think she is some sort of TV star,” Markusic says.

The show featured Scott's story after the crew overheard Markusic talking with the coaches about Scott. When the producers asked if the family wanted to be on the show, they agreed. Markusic hoped that sharing Scott’s story might help others with gender-fluid children. Until a year ago, Markusic believed Scott was transgender.

“I didn’t even know I had a gender-fluid child and this child lived in my house for six years. If I would have known this [when] she was 3 or 4 I would have known what to do, how to help her,” says Markusic. “She is just my kid and I love her and I accept her.”

Adam/Abby Scott with their sister, Janae ScottCourtesy Sara Markusic

Gilboa says that Markusic, her partner, James Scott, and the entire community are doing a wonderful job supporting Adam/Abby.

“I am so impressed ... They are building their child’s self esteem, self reliance, respect,” Gilboa says. “I don’t think anyone thinks that this child is going to have an incredibly smooth childhood in terms of interaction with peers or adults … But pretending this is not happening to the child is even worse.”